Leave the Earth’s atmosphere – 2020 North Atmos 138 Review
This test first appeared in KW #102 in November 2019
TESTED BY: CHRIS BULL AND JIM GAUNT. FIND THEIR DETAILS AND TEST SCORE BREAKDOWNS HERE.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
The Atmos is North KB’s performance freeride / big air steed, favoured by Nick Jacobsen and Graham Howes. High expectations weren’t let down in either of the two versions that the Atmos comes in. We tested both the Hybrid (paulownia wood core with strategically placed unidirectional carbon tape) and the Carbon model (paulownia wood core with a full carbon laminate lay-up).
We’ve literally tested these boards, but mostly the Hybrid, in everything from the most awful high tide chop to more dreamy flat water in a wide variety of winds. The carbon version is certainly stiffer, but comes with a bigger price tag (close to €1,000), so if budget is important to you, then the hybrid version has the perfect amount of flex for someone within normal weight boundaries and actually feels more progressive in terms of the way it flexes in its tip and tail. If you’re heavier than 85 kilos then the Carbon version’s stiffer flex will probably suit you more (in this size). Equally, if you’re a more hardcore rider then the carbon is also for you. If you’ve got a grand that’s just burning a hole in your pocket, then you can also ride the carbon version all day long, too. If we’re honest, it is gorgeous! Both shapes are the same. But honestly, day to day, we’d probably opt for the hybrid.
Both boards are really well built and laminated. The sandwich of the top and bottom sheet with the ABS rail is very strong and gives no impression of peeling. Bully held on to both these boards for a month and let’s just say, as usual, he’s done some beach riding and some shallow beach tuning and they still look mint. Well bonded and sealed there’s certainly an evident level of high quality and production.
This 138 x 41cm size fits bang in the middle of most of the freeride twin-tip sizes we test. It’s a really all-round size and, although there’s not much difference in actual size between a 42 (which we test a lot of) and a 41cm wide board, this Atmos is ideal as a 41 for our sizes (lighter than 80 kilos) because it’s just that bit more gunny and fast. Combine it with a fast and boosty kite, like the Orbit, and it matches really well, because it accelerates quickly and also holds speed.
There is a little groove in the deck of the board near the rails, cut out to hold on to during board-offs (but the handle is of high quality too if you’re using that). Flip the board over and you’ll see a light single concave between your feet which develops into four more detailed channels in the tip and tail. Like most good freeride twin-tips at the moment the Atmos features a stiff central section which helps the board get up to speed quickly and allows it to maintain the positive rocker line when pushed hard.
For a board that in many ways is quite generic in terms of its design in the bottom sheet, there’s a nice combination of grip with a bit of softness and isn’t so taut in the tip and tail that it requires a lot of energy to switch from your heelside to toeside. The fins are quite long and wide rather than short and tall, so you get quite a lot of fin area, but it’s spread out. This helps for a playful feeling when sliding the board round. What’s important in a freeride board is the ability to throw buckets when turning on a small wave and the Atmos has a very smooth amount of grip in the tail and grips well when pushed flat against the wave face.
The primary reason we really like the Atmos is the sharp edge grip and clean release, however this board isn’t just a bitey, sharp, all-or-nothing knife. There’s a smooth carve characteristic here, too. This is a more firm ride than something like the Jaime which we tested recently, or the Eleveight this issue, but it’s still a bread and butter ride that anyone can get on with straight away. While this isn’t a really carvey board like some twin-tips we’ve tested this year, it’s the strong and positive bite and control at speed that make the Atmos stand out. There’s good get up and go in lighter winds, but it really shines when you’re looking for stronger wind control and smooth bite for loading up big take-offs. That extra firmness gives progressive riders the clean talk-back and response that they will be looking for without adding technicality to the ride.
This board is a real player in the performance freeride market and beautifully well built. The first version of the stock Flex North pads / straps we felt needed a bit more coverage and more snug foot coverage, but as usual with accessories it all depends on your feet. North’s partnering with Mystic means that you could easily opt for the new Mystic Marshall footpad / strap system, which is top level and that would make a killer combination with the Atmos.
Watch the product video here:
Overall the Atmos delivers shed loads of grip, progressive bite and a great turn of speed. It’s light enough and does everything you need a top level freeride board to do without being technical to ride.
KW LIKED: Quick acceleration and yet easy riding characteristics with superb bite and release all add-up to exactly what you want from a freeride twin-tip for most conditions.
KW WOULD CHANGE: The footpad and straps weren’t quite as supportive as on other models, but this is an easy fix. The board itself is a cracking bit of kit.
ATMOS BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 8.5
Fixtures and fittings: 8 (board, insert quality and handle)
Slider proof: NA
Boots applicable: Yes
Ease of use: 8
SIZES: 144 x 43, 141 x 42, 138 x 41, 136 x 40 and 133 x 39cm
More at: northkb.com